DLA Piper (Hong Kong)

The Legal Cheek View

DLA Piper is one of the biggest law firms in the world — a global firm with more than 90 offices, having rapidly expanded through mergers of unprecedented scope. In fact, it’s the product of the largest law firm merger in history, in 2005. And it has enjoyed robust growth since.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the firm is its polycentrism, or its practice of not having a global headquarters. We understand that the idea is to reduce stuffiness, or concentration of power in a particular office. The verein (a German word for an association with a common purpose, which tends to be non-hierarchical) structure of the firm further allows the members of the firm to finance operations on their own terms. Basically, there are lots of opportunities for offices to make decisions independently.

The industry-focused Chinese practice was set up in 1988 and the firm has collected some big clients along the way. We’re talking giants like Standard Chartered Bank, JP Morgan, and Tesco, following the British supermarket chain’s expansion to China. The firm’s long presence in China has seen it advise on some landmark cases, such as the 22-year trademark battle of world-famous shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik.

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Being a full-service global behemoth also means DLA Piper comprises multiple highly regarded practice areas. Its intellectual property practice is viewed as particularly successful, as is its technology and media practice in the Greater China region. The firm’s restructuring practice is well sought after, with clients ranging from financial institutions to private equity firms. There is a lot of talk about innovation too. The firm’s very own FinTech engine, TOKO, is known for its creative method of providing financing to the firm’s clients.

There is lots to expect as a trainee. True to its international roots, the firm kick-starts its Hong Kong training programme with an international induction course in London. One can thus expect to be roped into the firm’s global milieu right from the very start. In the vibrant Hong Kong office, you can expect to encounter people speaking a good mix of Asian languages, including Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Throughout the training contract, there are international secondments and work placements available in destinations such as Thailand and Australia, but the current batch of trainees haven’t been able to complete any owing to the coronavirus and quarantine restrictions, which are gradually easing. We also understand that trainees are given “real work and responsibility” during their contract. This is equally true for secondments. Recalling their secondment to the London corporate department, one trainee says: “I assisted from the early stage of the due diligence process to verification, prospectus drafting and all preparation work leading up.” And, of course, nothing beats being able to travel to exotic locations for work!

We also hear the firm goes above and beyond to support your professional development. At least one trainee got a chance to do a four-week Melbourne placement, enabling her to fulfil the admission requirements in Australia.

Once qualified, the firm’s large size means your specialism preferences are likely to be accommodated, and the training continues well beyond the training contract.

Apart from breadwinning work, the firm takes its social responsibility seriously as well, as shown by its 2020-21 count of 3,200 pro bono hours. There is a rising sensibility towards the environment and climate change too. DLA Piper has adopted a global energy reduction plan and has also adopted science-based targets for net-zero carbon emissions.

The firm’s big move to its brand new and modern offices in Three Exchange Square, means it neighbours other big-name firms. The grind of working in a firm like DLA Piper is mellowed by the office views which overlook the harbour and will help ease the pain of any long nights! What’s more, you can explore other Central attractions, thanks to the pedestrian bridge.

DLA Piper currently offers up to seven training contracts. There is also a three-week summer vacation scheme where you’d be automatically assessed for a training spot. To be eligible to apply, you’d need a 2:1 classification and excellent English and Chinese skills, both written and spoken.

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Peer support
Partner approach-ability
Work/life balance
Legal tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Hong Kong Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2022-23 of over 100 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in Hong Kong.


First year trainee salary Undisclosed
Second year trainee salary Undisclosed
Newly qualified salary Undisclosed
PCLL grant Undisclosed

General Info

Training contracts 7
Latest trainee retention rate Undisclosed
Offices 40
Countries 90
Minimum language requirement English, Chinese (written/spoken)
Minimum degree requirement 2:1; GPA 3.0 or above